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Advanced web search with Google operators

Google is the biggest search engine in the US, boasting a 75% share of the search market. With its simple user interface, the market leader delivers answers to search queries at the speed of light – all laid out clearly and sorted by relevance. The information you’re looking for doesn’t always appear on the first page of the results; it depends on how precise your search query is. You can thus determine how exact you want the search engine to be. What many users don’t know is that Google offers specific search operators to refine web searches. They enable you to be more specific with your search request and reach your goal faster. Read on to discover how to do this.

Basic operators

Google supports a repertoire of punctuation and symbols that you can use to make your search request more precise or exclude certain terms. These can be entered into the Google search box along with your search terms and they work to instruct the search engine on how to process the request. Note that the Google search operators will only be considered if the search mode is set to read search terms 'word for word’. If it isn’t, Google will ignore these instructions and presume it can deliver better results without the help of the search operators. All basic operators can be used separately or in combination with each other

OperatorFunction
"exact search phrase" Users who put a search term or a particular phrase in quotation marks are telling Google that they only want to receive search results containing these exact phrases. This Google search operator is ideal for those looking for quotes, song lyrics, or sections of text. Upper and lower case letters aren’t taken into account by the search engine despite being in quotation marks.
-Search term

As well as knowing what you ARE searching for, it’s also helpful if the search engine knows what you AREN’T looking for. Users often get irrelevant results especially when the keywords they’ve entered are ambiguous. In order to find the desired information more quickly, Google has a search operator that is able to exclude specific search terms; a hyphen (-) is used in combination with the search term. Google then knows to only show sites that don’t contain the undesired search terms located after the hyphen.

For example, if you’re looking for a computer mouse, you might be shown sites containing information about the animal, but with this particular operator you can block these results from being shown:

Mouse -Animal

*Search term

If you don’t want to determine the exact wording or you don’t know it, you can use the wildcard search and have Google automatically complete the search query for you. Just use an asterisk (*) as a placeholder.

This is how you can find phrases if you aren’t sure of the exact wording:

a * in the hand is worth two in the *

#Search term

Hashtags (#) can be used as an operator for trending topics. Just like with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Google users can search for specific hashtags.

#icebucketchallenge

@Search termThe @ sign can be used to find social tags.

The selection of search operators has been continually adapted by Google over the years. While this has meant the tilde symbol (~) has become obsolete, the plus sign (+) has been assigned a new function. This Google operator previously acted as an 'and' to link search terms. This led to only search results being shown that contained all the entered search terms together, but this mode is now standard. The plus sign was therefore given the new task of operator for specifically searching for pages on Google+.

Advanced operators

Besides the basic operators, Google search has more tricks up its sleeve to narrow search results even further. Specific commands are used to separate search terms by putting a colon in front. Note that there shouldn’t be any spacing between this Google operator and the search term. Advanced search commands can be combined with other operators.

OperatorFunction
site:

The Google search command site: allows users to view all indexed pages of a domain. Combining the command with a search term means all subpages will be shown that contain this keyword:

Edward Snowden site:nytimes.com

The example query instructs Google to search through the subpages of nytimes.com for the phrase Edward Snowden. In addition, this search command can also be used with basic operators to exclude certain domains during the search. For example, you can block Wikipedia from appearing in the results:

Edward Snowden -site:wikipedia.org

The site request is especially useful for website operators that want to optimize their project for the search engine. You can check whether all relevant pages of your website are listed on Google. The search operator also provides suggestions for internal linking since topic-relevant subpages can be filtered out by using the command in combination with a keyword.

related:

The Google operator related: doubles up as a research platform. Adding a website after this command tells Google that you’re searching for similar websites.

If you’re looking for celebrity news similar to what eonline.com offers, you will be shown sites such as radaronline.com, usmagazine.com, and tmz.com if you enter:

related:eonline.com

Website operators can also search for their competition this way.

OR

Search queries where alternative wording could be used can be linked together through the Google operator OR. This lets the search engine know that sites are also relevant if they contain any of the mentioned search terms:

Test "chrysler dodge" OR "chrysler jeep"

info:

Google users who are searching for information about a domain can use the info: command. You will get info about the web address, the cached version of the page, any similar pages, and find out about any pages that link to that site.

info:google.com

intext:

The Google search operator intext: used in conjunction with a search term instructs the search engine to only deliver links to websites that contain the given search term in blocks of text on their site.

intext:Edward Snowden

Only websites are shown that have the phrase Edward Snowden in their text element.

The Google search operator intext: used in conjunction with a search term instructs the search engine to only deliver links to websites that contain the given search term in blocks of text on their site. intext:Edward Snowden Only websites are shown that have the phrase Edward Snowden in their text element.

You can alternatively use the search command allintext:.

allintext:

The Google search operator allintext: has the same purpose as intext:, but includes all terms in the inquiry. Websites are then displayed that contain all the keywords of the search query in the text.

allintext:Edward Snowden PRISM NSA Guardian

inanchor:

While the commands intext: and allintext: target search terms in blocks of text, the Google operator inanchor: instructs the search engine to find the keyword in anchor texts.

The following request narrows down the Google search to include only websites that have apache in their anchor text:

inanchor:apache

allinanchor:

The command tells Google to restrict results to pages that contain all query terms specified in the anchor text. Use allinanchor: in combination with the corresponding keywords:

allinanchor:apache http server download

In this example, you’ll be shown pages that contain these words: 'apache', 'http', 'server', and 'download' in their anchor text.

intitle:

Google users that want documents with specific keywords in the title should use the intitle: command.

intitle:wordpress

In this example, documents would be displayed to you that have wordpress written in the title.

allintitle:

allintitle:

This Google search operator should be used when you want to search for more than one search term in the title.

allintitle:wordpress tutorial beginner

inurl:

If you want Google to look out for a keyword in the URL, this is where the operator inurl: comes into play. The search engine only displays results of websites that contain this search term in their URL. This is especially helpful if the search should be limited to certain web offers:

Audi A4 inurl:forum

This limited search will provide you with forums in which internet users swap information and chat about Audi A4 cars.

You can alternatively search this way:

[Search term] inurl:showthread

[Search term] inurl:topic

allinurl:

The URL search can be expanded to the whole keyword set:

allinurl:technical blog linux

filetype:

The search command filetype: can be used when Google users want to narrow down the search results to certain file types.

Wordpress Tutorial filetype:pdf

A request like this indicates that only results in PDF format should be included in the web search. The search engine then compiles a list of freely accessible PDF documents that contain the relevant keyword.

Additional examples of file types that Google supports include doc and jpg.

define:

The Google operator define: doesn’t just restrict the search results to definitions, but also delivers explanations for each search term.

If you write define:blog you will be provided with a definition of what a blog is.

With the link: search operator Google offers website owners an opportunity to see links that point to that URL. The list will show webpages that link to the respective domain. The operator works quite sporadically and doesn’t provide a comprehensive backlink profile. For a complete overview website operators should enlist the help of specialized providers like Ahrefs.

Encyclopedia Google